Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook
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In Illyana Maisonet’s compelling account, the food of Puerto Ricans outside Puerto Rico has its own identity, inseparable from its roots on the island and just as clearly a part of wherever it is those cooks are living now.
Her bracing and frank book—not a good choice for those who are shy about four-letter words or anticolonial politics—includes both recipes from the island’s different regions as well as her own Dungeness crab guanimes, little dumplings that reflect her upbringing in California. There’s a Puerto Rican-inflected version of Laotian laab that comes from a certain time in Maisonet’s life, and a rolled cake known as brazo gitano that swaps Sacramento Valley cherries for guava.
Certain core recipes do appear: lechón, for instance, the spitted pig roasted over an open fire, is very well documented. And pasteles, using a dough made from tropical tubers and bananas, though when it comes to wrapping them, Maisonet’s headnotes provide a clear example of how, as she says, “Puerto Ricans don’t tend to be cerebral about their food but rather emotional.”
Rather than a systematic attempt to survey the Puerto Rican diaspora, Diasporican uses Maisonet’s family, friends, and acquaintances to capture a representative diversity, a kind of synecdoche in which the experiences of hard-working cooks and their stories bring to life the cooking of millions who have left the island. There is no attempt to be definitive so much as a demonstration that there are many other stories left to be told.
Hardcover. Color photographs throughout.